Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Middle-Grade Graphic Novel Review: The Midwinter Witch

I enjoyed the third book, The Midwinter Witch, in Molly Knox Ostertag's fun middle-grade fantasy graphic novel series that began with The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch. This action-filled book continues the exciting story about a family of witches.

Aster, the boy witch of the title of the first book in the series, is once again at the center of this story in which the family is traveling to the annual Midwinter Festival. His immediate family has mostly accepted that he is a rare male witch (and a good one, at that), but they are worried about what the extended family at the reunion will think. Aster wants to enter the Jolrun, a competition for young witches, and some family members are worried about how the rest of the group will respond to a boy in the traditionally all-female contest. Sure enough, some of Aster's older male cousins begin teasing him as soon as they arrive at the festival. Meanwhile, Aster's non-magical best friend, Charlie, gets permission from her fathers to go to the festival with Aster's family, and their other friend, Ariel, the newly-discovered witch from The Hidden Witch, also attends, though she is hiding a secret. Her long-lost Aunt Isabel contacts her through a dream and is trying to convince Ariel to train with her, instead of with Aster's family. She practices a dark magic, though, and Ariel is torn between the enticement of a stronger, more powerful magic and what she has been learning in her training with Aster's grandmother.
Sample page from The Witch Boy, with Aster and Charlie

As with the first two books in the series, The Midwinter Witch is filled with suspense and plenty of magical action to keep young readers rapt. However, also in keeping with the rest of the series, there are plenty of real-life issues that kids will relate to, even if they're not witches or shape-shifters! Here, bullying, gender identity, figuring out who you are, and friendship are at the center of the kids' struggles, as well as making good choices and doing what's right, without harming others. Ostertag does a wonderful job of wrapping these serious topics up in a fun, supernatural tale, illustrated in bright, eye-catching colors with realistic-looking diverse characters. She combines fantastical magic and witchcraft with the ordinary fun of close friendships. I can't wait to see what's in store next for Aster, Charlie, Ariel, and the others!

202 pages, Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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